The Good Guys – How Beneficial Bacteria Affects Digestion

by Alyssa Simpson, RD, CDE, CLT

The “microbiome” is a term used to describe the dynamic community of microorganisms living in our gastrointestinal tract. This community is comprised of beneficial and symbiotic organisms that cohabitate within us.

You may be asking, how many of these little buggers are inside of us? What roles do they play with our digestive and overall health?

Right now there are around 1,000 different types of bacteria living in your digestive system. While your first thought might be “Get them out!” these organisms have many positive influences on your health.

These good guys function in symbiosis with your immune system and play an integral role protecting you from potential illnesses including parasitic infection and overgrowth of yeast and bacteria; like candida albicans and H-pylori respectively.

Beyond its protective role, these bacteria have many other beneficial functions. Chief among them is aiding in digestion. Balancing pH in the gut, reducing inflammation, regulating our bowel movements, manufacturing B vitamins and essential fatty acids, aiding in mineral absorption and protecting against toxic substances are all influenced by these good guys.

When our good guys become compromised, allowing disease-causing bacteria, parasites and yeast to proliferate, it can lead to a multitude of unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms including gas, bloating and diarrhea. This imbalance is referred to as dysbiosis.

The delicate balance of good and bad microorganisms in your gut can be easily disrupted by many factors. These include chemical exposure, stress, poor diet, alcohol intake, antibiotic use and medications such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors.

Recently, I’ve been working with a patient who was experiencing persistent abdominal pain, distention, bloating, gas and indigestion. With the pressure and pain in her belly barely allowing her to eat, she knew she had to see a doctor.

Initially she had a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, but no causes for her symptoms were found. The medication she was prescribed did not offer much relief either and she knew the way she was feeling was not normal for her.

Working with this patient, I first identified foods that were triggering her symptoms. Once we eliminated these foods from her diet, we were able to begin to restore her good bacteria using probiotic supplements and nutrition therapy; including foods rich in prebiotics like onions, garlic, and honey.

Within two weeks of beginning treatment her symptoms had dramatically decreased and her condition continues to improve.

Once treatment for dysbiosis begins, patients usually experience relief from symptoms in the first few weeks. This is because the treatments are patient-specific and tailored to each individual’s needs.

As in this case, treatment usually includes taking probiotics and prebiotics in coordination with medical nutrition therapy to boost development of good bacteria and inhibit growth of bad bacteria.

When selecting a probiotic supplement it is important to look for products containing living, viable organisms, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum for example, in addition to any condition-specific strain recommended by your healthcare provider.

As a Registered Dietitian, I can determine which probiotics and prebiotics would be most beneficial for you, help you to plan a therapeutic diet and identify lifestyle changes designed to re-balance your system and help you find relief from your symptoms.

If you suffer from a gastrointestinal condition or chronic GI symptoms, your microbiome is likely an important factor to address.

Dr. Wadas on BetterTV for Colon Cancer Awareness Month

In recognition of Dress in Blue Day and Colon Cancer Awareness Month this March, Dr. Darrell Wadas spoke with BetterTV this past Friday to remind people about the importance of getting yourself screened for colon cancer. Watch the video below to better understand your own risk factors for colon cancer. 

Colon Cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the US, but is preventable when caught early. With colonoscopy, our gastroenterologists are able to detect and remove polyps before they threaten your health. Colonoscopy screenings are recommended for individuals aged 50 and over, or younger if you have symptoms or family history of colon cancer.

Our physicians and staff are happy to answer any questions you have about colon cancer and colonoscopy. To speak with one of our board certified gastroenterologists, you can reach out to our locations directly by phone, or complete the appointment request form we have online.

Healthy, age-appropriate individuals may also be interested in our Open Access Colonoscopy program available at some locations. This program allows qualifying patients to schedule a colonoscopy procedure without the need for a pre-procedure visit. Click here for more information about the Open Access Colonoscopy program.

Have a Jolly, Gluten-Free Holiday Season!

by Alyssa Simpson, RD, CDE, CLT

Season’s Greetings! The holidays are devoted to family, friends and good food. If you have to avoid gluten because of a medical condition or sensitivity, it can be challenging to enjoy all that the season has to offer. With these suggestions, we hope everyone can have a festive and filling holiday season.

The most important part to successfully enjoying a gluten-free holiday is planning ahead. The simplest solution for avoiding potentially harmful foods is to eat before arriving at gatherings and parties. Alternatively, talk to the host – explain your situation and offer to bring a gluten-free dish. This is a great opportunity to teach friends and family a little bit more about your condition.

Baking

For many, baking pies, cakes and cookies is a tradition that can’t be overlooked. For members of the family with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, recipes can be modified to use a gluten-free flour blend so your favorite treats are still safe to eat.

Gluten-Free Flour Blend: Combine 2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca flour and 1 teaspoon xanthan gum. Use as you would regular flour, stir before use.

Dining

Holiday staples like stuffing and gravy are usually not options for the gluten-free crowd; but with simple substitutions and a little creativity, most of these dishes can be made safe. Consider swapping out bread cubes in stuffing for quinoa or using cornstarch to thicken gravy rather than flour.

Be aware – cross contamination can occur between dishes if the same utensils are used. Many packaged foods can contain gluten even if the ingredients don’t include wheat, rye or barley. Ingredients such as modified food starch, malt or soy sauce also contain gluten.

Drinking

Luckily, many wines and spirits are gluten-free! Liquors made from gluten grains including gin, whiskey and some vodkas may be risky because their safety depends on distillation practices. It’s safest to stick with potato-based vodkas, rum and tequila. Wine is trickier, but usually gluten-free. In cases of dessert wines, or wines with added colors or flavors, it is best to check with the manufacturer.

Beer is generally not gluten-free but many craft breweries have released gluten-free offerings in recent years. These beers use sorghum, corn or buckwheat and have similar characteristics to their more traditional cousins. Avoid products like Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade as these products frequently use malt, which contains gluten.

Always read the label! If you are unsure whether a product is gluten-free, checking the label is always the first place to start. If you are still unsure, most manufacturers will have that information available on their website.

Do you have questions or concerns about gluten-free menu options? Set up a consultation to discuss how preparing these dishes can be easy and fun!

Gluten-Free Coconut Meringue Cookies

2 Egg Whites, at room temperature

1 Pinch Salt

1/4 Cup Sugar

1/3 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

1/4 Cup Monk Fruit In The Raw® Bag

1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add salt and beat until the whites form soft peaks. While beating, slowly add the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time; this should take 1 minute. Continue beating until the whites form stiff peaks. Using a flexible spatula, fold in the coconut, Monk Fruit In The Raw® Bakers Bag, and vanilla.

3. Drop walnut–size mounds of the meringue onto the lined baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart. With the back of the spoon, smooth and slightly flatten the meringue into even mounds.

4. Bake the cookies for 2 hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the closed oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until they are crisp in the center.

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